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Illinois Business Pushes Back on Public Right to Sue Bills

The Illinois General Assembly is considering whether people should be allowed to sue to block regulatory decisions of state government. The state’s business community says that’s dangerous for the economy.

The legislation would change the rules surrounding decisions on things like construction permits. Typically, input on those decisions are limited to a state agency and a business applying for a permit. Anyone who proves they would be “adversely affected” by a project could sue to get its permit revoked.

A number of business groups argue that’ll lead to unnecessary lawsuits. They say the public can already make its feelings known — by making comments during public hearings.

But Democratic state Senator Kwame Raoul of Chicago explained speaking out doesn’t carry as much weight as going to court.

“There’s a difference between allowing a comment and giving standing to someone who’s actually impacted, and the extent to which comments are allowed is a question mark,” he said.

Raoul is supporting one version of the legislation. A similar proposal was introduced by a Republican in the Illinois House, Rep. Steve Andersson of Geneva. 

Business advocates say both versions would “open the floodgates” for costly lawsuits and add delays to an already slow permitting process.  

Rep. Andersson says the public doesn’t have enough say under the current system.

“We’re trying to restore due process because it’s not enough to simply allow our agencies to rubber stamp whatever industry wants. There has to be the right of the people to be able to challenge that,” he said.

Both measures have garnered bipartisan support.

Sam is a Public Affairs Reporting intern for spring 2018, working out the NPR Illinois Statehouse bureau.
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